Thursday, May 2, 2024

Next up: Emil Jannings in 'The Last Laugh' (1924) at Epsilon Spires on Friday, 5/10 in Brattleboro, Vt.

A French language poster for F.W. Murnau's film 'The Last Laugh' (1924).

April showers may bring May flowers, and May brings the start of two season series of silent film screenings. 

On Saturday, May 11, I return to Brandon Town Hall and Community Center in Brandon, Vt. for a 13th year of presenting silent films with live music. First up is Chaplin's 'The Gold Rush' (1925).

Later, on Wednesday, May 29, I'll be at the Leavitt Theatre in Ogunquit, Maine for the start of another season of silents with live music. First up: Buster Keaton in 'The General' (1926).

All the rest of each series are listed on my "Upcoming Silent Film Screenings" page, which is linked at the top right of this page.

But before any of that takes place, I'll be at Epsilon Spires in Brattleboro, Vt. on Friday, May 10, where I'll accompany F.W. Murnau's 'The Last Laugh' (1924).

More details on that screening in the press release below. Hope to see you there!

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Emil Jannings wearing the uniform that plays such an important role in 'The Last Laugh' (1924)

Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 •

'The Last Laugh' to screen with live music at Epsilon Spires on Friday, May 10

Oscar-winning actor Emil Jannings stars in ground-breaking 1924 silent drama from German director F.W. Murnau

BRATTLEBORO, Vt.—'The Last Laugh' (1924), a German silent film drama about a hotel doorman demoted to washroom attendant, will be screened with live music on Friday, May 10 at 8 p.m. at Epsilon Spires, 190 Main St., Brattleboro, Vt.

Admission is $20 per person. Tickets may be purchased in advance at or at the door.

The screening will feature live accompaniment on the venue's Estey pipe organ by Jeff Rapsis, a New Hampshire-based silent film musician.

In 'The Last Laugh,' regarded as one of German director F.W. Murnau's best pictures, the story is told entirely in visual terms, without the use of title cards.

The film, a character study that chronicles the mental breakdown of an aging man who loses his position of authority, is also noted for its revolutionary use of camera movement.

Playing the lead role is Swiss/German actor Emil Jannings, widely recognized as one of the most versatile actors of early cinema.

Jannings would later move to Hollywood, where he earned the first-ever Best Actor Oscar at the inaugural Academy Awards for his towering performances in 'The Last Command' (1928) and 'The Patriot' (1928).

Critics and film writers regard 'The Last Laugh' as a landmark of early cinema.

" 'The Last Laugh' is a masterpiece of psychological study, perhaps the best ever portrayal of what goes through one man's mind under varying situations ... It is absolutely mind-boggling to see Emil Jannings age at least 10 or 15 years right in front of our eyes in the course of a couple of minutes," wrote author Robert K. Klepner in 'Silent Films' (2005).

Critic David Kehr of the Chicago Reader described 'The Last Laugh' as "the 1924 film in which F.W. Murnau freed his camera from its stationary tripod and took it on a flight of imagination and expression that changed the way movies were made."

The film's director of photography, Karl Freund, set new standards of cinematography in 'The Last Laugh,' setting up the camera to move through corridors and "see" action through a character's eye-view.

Freund's long career later included work in television in the 1950s in Hollywood, when he developed the "three camera" system for the "I Love Lucy" show, which became the standard format for shooting situation comedies.

'The Last Laugh' will be accompanied by live music by Jeff Rapsis, a New Hampshire-based silent film accompanist who performs at venues across the region and beyond.

"Films such as 'The Last Laugh' were created to be shown on the big screen and in a theater as a communal experience," Rapsis said. "With an audience and live music, they still come to life in the way their makers intended them to.

'The Last Laugh' (1924) will be screened with live music on Friday, May 10 at 8 p.m. at Epsilon Spires, 190 Main St., Brattleboro, Vt.

Admission is $20 per person. Tickets may be purchased in advance at or at the door.

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